Monday, September 10, 2007

Eyes that hear, ears that see

I always tell my students (violin, viola, recorder, and flute) that musicians have eyes that hear and ears that see. We forge unusual cross-sensual connections when we practice, and we often use our "mind's eye" to "see" our fingers and hands in relation to the instrument we are playing.

Developing a visual sense of the piano keyboard is hard and takes time and "brain space," especially for someone like me who only started trying to do it properly in her forties. Unfortunately the forties are the years when our eyes change. I have always been nearsighted, but I had to start wearing double-duty lenses a few years ago. I have progressive lenses, and boy do they mess me up when I'm trying to play the piano. The brain has to direct the eye to the "sweet spot" in the lenses, and I guess it must take a lot of brain power to do it. It takes a lot of the fun out of playing, and tends to create a lot of tension for me in my back and my jaw.

So today, on a whim, for the first time in my glasses-wearing life, I played the piano without glasses, and it felt fantastic. Without dealing with the changes in focus that the progressive forces me to make, it felt like I had a whole bunch of brain space to spare. My interior visual imagination had space to move around, and I could actually see a whole page of music without having to fuss and fidget. I also didn't get lost while looking for stuff with my ears, or if I had to (yes, I have to ) look at the keyboard. I could even listen better.

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